Message from the 2023 Executive Committee Meeting

The Executive Committee of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) met from 20-24 May 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa, under the theme “Covenanting in God’s Mission.” This theme stands in the light of God’s new covenant with his people as proclaimed in Hosea 2:18-20:

And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

We rejoice in meeting in person after only being able to meet virtually these last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were especially pleased to be accompanied by many of our ecumenical partners. We thank our hosts, the member churches of the WCRC in South Africa, for their gracious hospitality. For us this is not an ordinary location. It is the place where the engagement with the South African churches during the time of apartheid shaped the self-understanding of the Communion as we know it today and gave it its true church identity. It is where the Belhar Confession was birthed, and the continent from which the Accra Confession sprang.

We once more commit ourselves to renew God’s covenant with us, in order to realize God’s mission by demonstrating love for God’s people and creation, seeking justice in God’s world. As Reformed people, we strive to keep reforming according to the Word of God, and therefore we continue to subject ourselves to a process of discernment—continuous self-examination with the purpose to test the spirits.

During the meeting of the Executive Committee, we took note of specific contexts of violence and injustice in Africa, of war in Sudan, Syria, Palestine, and Ukraine, paying attention to a newly developing, Cold War-oriented, geo-politico-economic order in the midst of the USA-China hegemonic struggle which critically affects people’s security in North East Asia. We were sensitized about global movements towards populism, fascism, and authoritarianism in a post-truth reality shaped by social media that threaten democracy.

We also heard from our South African hosts about the continuing challenges they face, including the need for educating the youth; a “brain drain,” of highly skilled people leaving the country; violence, fostered in inequality; and corruption on all levels of the government.

But we were inspired by a visit to Constitution Hill where, on the one hand, we saw the inhuman conditions prisoners were subjected to during the apartheid regimes and on the other hand, saw the commitment South Africans have made to equality through their Constitutional Court.

We were further inspired by presentations from the GRAPE—Global Reformed Advocacy Platforms for Engagement—participants of Kenya and South Africa, who demonstrated both the need for and the power of advocating for justice.

We therefore call on our member churches to foster a just communion, and we call for the full and just participation of all those who have been excluded from our tables.

We call for those who have had their dignity stolen from them, who have been rejected and demeaned, to be at the centre of our spaces and our conversations.

We call on our member churches to covenant for justice and to work to remove inequalities, to dismantle patriarchy, and to stop the systemic exploitation of people and the earth.

We call on our member churches to adopt and support the calls of the Zacchaeus Tax campaign for tax justice and reparations which we relaunched in Africa during our gathering.

We call on our Communion members to proclaim and demonstrate how the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us when we engage with God’s mission in contexts of crisis, giving hope to the world by humble and honest discernment, by fearless witness, and by boldly practicing justice.

With this spirit the Executive Committee invites our member churches to move together towards the 2025 General Council in Thailand under the theme “Persevere in your witness,” on a common journey for renewing our covenant in God’s mission.

As 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 states: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies.”

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